How to Maintain Brand Consistency Across Multiple Platforms
Your brand is what defines your business or organization – how its presence is communicated across the many different channels you use to reach your customers is extremely important. What’s more important, perhaps, is how consistent your brand stays throughout your marketing efforts. Brand consistency is making sure your brand – the identifying characteristics of your business or organization – are being marketed and communicated the same EVERY time it’s used. Buy why? Why is it so important?
Why Brand Consistency is So Important
Keeping your brand consistent across all the platforms you use – even in how you provide your product and services to your customers – is important because it helps create and maintain trust with your current customers as well as demonstrating a professional appearance to potential customers. On social channels and in digital marketing, keeping your brand consistent helps people identify and connect with your brand, distinguishing it from your competitors.
Everyone wants to be different; no one wants to be the same as anyone else. However, consistency is the key to long-lasting success for your brand. Consistency in voice, appearance, even in how your provide your services can only but add to your brand’s success.
Without consistency, your brand doesn’t distinguish itself from anyone or anything else and if you’re not consistent with your brand, it can communicate unprofessionalism and give your brand a bad reputation. Reputation, these days, especially online, is really important.
Maintaining brand consistency in today’s ever-changing marketing landscape is no small feat, especially when you might have multiple teams working in printed collateral, digital marketing and social media. How do you keep your brand consistent across all these platforms and medium?
Brand Consistency is an Ongoing Activity
Brand consistency is not an set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing – it takes being proactive and establishing a standard, monitoring the appearance and use of the brand, making sure your teams are using brand collateral correctly – there’s a lot to be done to keep things consistent! Fortunately, unless you have large teams of people working with your brand on multiple different channels, the work won’t be that frequent. However, making brand consistency an ongoing activity is essential to keeping it consistent.
For instance, and you may not need to review things quite this often, each week, review your marketing efforts that involve your brand. Have they used your logo correctly? Is the voice for your marketing appropriate? Are your day-to-day operations living up to your brand’s standards? Use a critical eye (not too critical or you’ll run the risk of sounding like a stickler) and determine what is consistent and what’s not. Then, contact the appropriate people or teams with brand issues and inform them of the inconsistency. Weekly, as I said, may be too frequent as your brand may not be used quite that frequently. Or, you may decide that it needs to be more frequent. However, you do it, make sure it’s an ongoing, regular activity.
Your Entire Team(s) Need to be Onboard with Maintaining Brand Consistency
Brand consistency is best maintained when all those who are involved are onboard with maintaining your brand standards. It seems like a no-brainer; in order to have consistency, you need to have consistency amongst those who are enforcing it. You might have to have meetings where you talk about your brand, how to communicate it, how not to use it and how to enforce it. Typically, it’s tends to be easier in these situations to involve your team in setting the standards. Allow them to come up with some ideas on how it should be used, how it can be monitored and their role in enforcing brand consistency.
Getting buy-in on anything can be tough, especially when you have large teams of people. The important thing to do is listen to ideas, culminate the best ones and create a plan to maintain brand consistency based on those ideas. When people feel that they are contributing to a strategy or plan, they play a more active role in maintaining that plan.
Create a Brand Style Guide
A brand style guide is probably the best way to keep everyone on the same page with your brand. Brand style guides tend to be comprehensive in the use of the brand’s logo, verbiage and design elements, but they also can include things like using specific words (or omitting specific words) from marketing verbiage. For example, Apple very specifically, uses “tap” in their verbiage when referring to the iPhone and iPad. And, they are very consistent in their use of it in their marketing and with their employees in their retail stores.
How to create a brand style guide: First, you need to gather your assets – logos, design elements, etc. Next, it’s good to meet with your team and review your collateral – determine how you want to see things used, verbiage you want employees to use in marketing and in conversations with customers, the voice you want to use when marketing your brand. Once you’ve got a brand consistency plan, you can create your guide.
It’s best to start basic – colors, brand naming conventions, logo usage – and work toward more complex standards – for instance, your brand’s standard for customer satisfaction or specific verbiage to be used (such as Apple’s use of “tap”). Be comprehensive – specifically in areas where the brand is being miscommunicated or ambiguous. Leave little open to interpretation so that your brand remains consistent no matter where it is used.
Brand Collateral Needs to be Accessible and Available to All Contributors
If you want brand consistency, you need to make sure that everyone on your team has access to all of the brand’s assets. Keeping your brand’s collateral and assets under lock and key isn’t helpful when you want everyone to be on the same page with the brand. For instance, if the brand’s logo isn’t available for a particular background, a team member could try to create a version of the logo that would work for their purposes, but not be brand consistent.
There are multiple ways to control brand consistency by keeping things in a central repository. For instance, creating a DropBox or a server where everyone with access can have assets available is a great way to keep everyone on the same page. There are multiple servers out there to use for data storage, so make sure you use a service that’s adequate for your team’s needs.
Designate “Brand Police” to Enforce Brand Standards
In order to actually maintain brand standards, you need to designate “brand police”. These are the folks who will be doing the monitoring of the brand; they’ll know the brand inside and out and be able to tell when a standard isn’t being followed. If you’re the CEO, CMO or business owner, you can’t always be the brand police, so find some people you trust to follow the standards and make sure others are as well.
As was stated earlier, choose a frequency that works and makes sense for you – weekly, bi-weekly, monthly – however often you think your brand’s consistency needs to be tested is how often you need to review it. Choosing people to be your “brand police” can be a difficult call – I would suggest choosing those who already follow brand standards and have a good handle on the overall brand – assets, collateral, look, feel, taste (ok, maybe not taste) – and put them to work enforcing the brand standard.
It’s important to note here that this shouldn’t be treated as a capital offense; it should be treated as a “Hey, by the way, you should change how your using the logo there” rather than calling someone else out on their use of the brand. A little candor goes a long way in this kind of situation and can make the difference between future mistakes with resentment or brand consistency with understanding of the brand’s strategy.
Brand Consistency Doesn’t Just Include Design Elements
Last, make sure that it’s not just your design elements that are included in your brand style guide; that you include verbiage (specific words and phrases) as well as service standards (Starbucks is known for getting your beverage correct no matter how many modifications are made to it). Putting these things into your brand style guide can help reinforce the mission of your organization as well as making sure your employees are onboard with the company’s strategic plan.
Logos and design elements are pretty easy to add to a style guide, but not necessarily with verbiage and service standards. Making sure your service standards are included in the style guide can be difficult without a great deal of input and collaboration. Have your marketing team brainstorm the possibilities and, as before, choose the ones that best represent the mission of the company and add them to that portion of the style guide.
As you can see, brand consistency is important to your organization and maintaining it can help get several people within your company involved by helping reinforce the brand’s standards, being part of the creation of a style guide and helping ensure that the style guide is followed in all your marketing efforts going forward. The key to brand success is consistency in how it is represented both visually and intellectually.
Do you have a style guide created for your business? What kinds of things do you include? What do you do to keep your brand consistent?